Selecting a Managed IT Services Provider
As IT environments continue to evolve and become more complex, organization’s IT departments are swarmed with increased tasks that hinder productivity and revenue generating activities. With managed IT services, companies can prosper from a myriad of benefits such as reducing costs, improving productivity, enhancing security, and ensuring service levels for their customers and employees. However, not all managed IT service providers are created equal. There are plenty of horror stories out there where failing to do your due diligence on a service provider proves to be a costly mistake. In order to ensure that your decision is the best one for your company, the following managed IT services provider checklist serves as a guideline for the major issues that need to be addressed when selecting a provider.
Industry Presence and Experience
Selecting a managed services provider is no different than buying a new TV for the house or a new vehicle for the family. If you’re anything like me, a certain level of research goes into my personal purchases such as, industry presence, customer reviews and how long a company has been in business. After doing my research based on my needs and requirements, I get a short list of car dealerships of TV manufacturers and start qualifying even more until I find the best fit for me.
Selecting a managed service provider is very similar. Prior to choosing a provider that will ultimately manage a significant amount of your IT operations, looking into their industry presence by checking for online reviews and asking for client testimonials and case studies can ensure that other companies have approved of their support and services. Also a critical piece to consider is their experience in the industry. IT requirements differ from company to company and a provider with industry experience will have an acute understanding of the different needs and requirements from client to client. It is in your company’s best interest to align itself with a quality managed services provider that is an extension of their IT team rather than a provider that has one set of services for all their customers.
To piggyback off of the provider experience, ensuring that the services and offerings are in line with your company’s needs and requirements are essential to choosing a provider. Rather than selecting a few managed service providers to evaluate, it is recommended to also select data centers that offer managed services in addition to their infrastructure offerings. We are all aware that as a business continues to grow and expand so does its infrastructure. By aligning your company with a data center provider that offers other services such as, colocation, dedicated servers, and cloud services it will help to create an easier task to scale up your resources with a provider that already understands your business. When you have one person to hold accountable there are fewer hands involved in managing infrastructure which in turn means fewer mistakes.
One of the main reasons that you are probably investigating managed service providers is because of all the daily tasks and management needs associated with proactively protecting your infrastructure from potential threats. Examining the managed service provider’s best practices in regards to preventing vulnerabilities and threats is essential to selecting a provider. Be sure to ask the provider to showcase their understanding and implementation of the most recent and up-to-date practices available in the industry and compare them to what your best practices currently are to be sure the two align well.
Receiving assistance from a managed service provider after an issue has occurred defeats the purpose of implementing their services in the first place. Issues occur every day, and even with proactive maintenance problems can still arise, however, when being proactive about infrastructure management you can significantly decrease the chances of an issue occurring. While a managed service provider’s initial assessment of your management needs and requirements is great, the on-going analysis and understanding of your infrastructure is a key element to being in front of any issues that may occur instead of reacting to issues that may be crippling your business.
Customer Ticket Resolution / Support
As mentioned before, problems occur even when proactive maintenance is being implemented. However, when these issues do arise, what is the procedure for getting help from the provider? Most quality managed service companies have plans that provide you with a dedicated account manager or support manager. This means that you’re escalation procedure to receive the support you require is either a phone call or an email away. Any kind of downtime could mean the loss of business or customers, so the quicker that a problem can be resolved the less effect it will have on your business.
Everyone knows the old adage, “you get what you pay for” and it’s no different in this situation. Don’t base your initial qualifying of managed service providers solely on their costs. While it’s always desirable to pay the lowest price for the best service, we all know that doesn’t always happen. Be sure to qualify the providers based off of your requirements and needs and what the service provider offers. After doing your due diligence, it is then recommended to evaluate the current costs that you are spending to manage your infrastructure in-house. Keep in mind that you should calculate lost time spent on new projects and delays in product releases against the overall cost of the services provided. The objective of implementing managed services is to find a company that provides you with the level of support you desire while being more cost efficient.